One of the best catalogues of human folly is the 19th century book by Charles MacKay, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. MacKay chronicles a host of scams, superstitions and mass frenzies, including the South Sea Bubble, Tulipomania, Alchemy and Witch Mania. To this roster, some future historian may someday add the full tale of the early 21st century Climate Mania, in which a throng of politicians, United Nations bureaucrats, film stars and what not promised that if they were just given enough power over our use of lightbulbs, cars, planes, ships, oil, gas, electricity and energy in general, they would — for the greater good of mankind, mind you — arrange to control to within a few decimal points the temperature of the planet.
For the moment, however, this is not history we are talking about. We are stuck in the acute phase of Climate Mania. This Friday, “Earth Day,” brought the signing ceremony at the UN’s New York headquarters of the Paris Agreement on “Climate Change.” More than 170 nations signed on, including such curators of human progress and enlightenment as North Korea, Sudan, Cuba and Iran. Actor Leonardo Di Caprio spoke from the podium of the General Assembly chamber. Secretary of State John Kerry brought his infant granddaughter, and held her on his lap while he signed the accord. UN leaders planted a tree in the UN “Food Garden.”
Di Caprio at General Assembly
General Ban Ki-moon called it “an historic day” (everything these days is “historic”) and told the assembled eminences “The era of consumption without consequences is over” (if that’s true, then surely one of the first things to go should be the UN itself, complete with the recent $2 billion-plus makeover of its NY offices — except the UN has always enjoyed immunity from its own pronouncements).
For all the hoopla, the Paris accord is not yet a done deal. But it soon may be. For this agreement to enter into force, at least 55 countries, accounting for 55% of “global greenhouse gas emissions,” must now sort out on the national level how they plan to comply, and deposit their instruments of ratification with the UN. Fifteen have already done so
And now we descend into some of the real dirt of this deal. In the U.S., President Obama — in spirit similar to his ramming through of the Iran nuclear deal — is preparing to slide right past such Constitutional requirements as acknowledging a treaty for what it is, and submitting it to be ratified by the Senate. Which, as Julian Morris notes, the current Republican Senate majority would not do.
In a background press briefing this past Wednesday, a senior State Department was asked about the process by which the U.S. would join the Paris accord. The official replied, “We have a standard State Department exercise that we are currently going through for authorizing an executive agreement.” According to this official, the Obama administration has decided that because the U.S. joined the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change back in 1992, this new treaty is not really a treaty (never mind the “historic” festivities at the UN), but an extension of existing obligations, ergo merely a matter for Obama’s pen. (Never mind the potentially colossal cost to the average American).
Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, and Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania take a very different view, writing for the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal under the headline “Obama’s Violating the Constitution by Not Submitting Climate Treaty to Senate.” They note that under this climate accord the U.S. would be binding itself to a long-term framework, forcing it to choke its carbon emissions “for decades to come.” They also note that when the Senate ratified the 1992 UNFCCC treaty, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “specifically reported that any future emissions targets ‘would have to be submitted to the Senate for its Advice and Consent.’ President Obama has chosen to ignore this directive.”
There’s also the disturbing question of whether President Obama will try to couple his costly climate projects with an end-run around U.S. law that forbids government funding to any “affiliated organization of the United Nations” that grants the Palestinians membership as a state. Quick background: When UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) admitted the Palestinians as full members in 2011, the agency lost its U.S. funding. Since then the Obama administration has been lobbying Congress to waive U.S. law in order to resume sending American tax dollars to UNESCO.
Last month, the UNFCCC allowed the Palestinian Authority to become a full member. The Palestinians have now signed the Paris Agreement. As Sen. John Barrasso reports, Washington gives money to the UNFCCC, and the White House has “unilaterally pledged $3 billion for international climate change as part of the Paris deal.” This week, 28 senators — including Barrasso — wrote a letter to Kerry imploring the administration “to hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions in circumventing the peace process, and to abide by current law prohibiting U.S. taxpayer funds for the UNFCCC and its related entities and other UN affiliated organizations that recognize the ‘State of Palestine.’ ”
Then we come to the Paris climate treaty itself, complete with its stress on “climate justice” and “making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”
Allow me to translate: This is a framework outlining central planning for the planet. It is all about regulating energy use and redirecting wealth around the globe, according to the preferences of such faceless international bureaucracies as the Paris treaty’s “Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice” and the “Subsidiary Body for Implementation.” There will be a largely unaccountable Green Climate Fund, and a prerogative for this Convention to proliferate lots more subsidiary bodies.